In the five seasons since Jon Gruden left the helm of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the up-and-down play that was the hallmark of his tenure has continued. Now moving on to their third post-Gruden head coach, Lovie Smith, the team has also swapped out general managers, changed their uniforms, and added a load of free agent pieces to both sides of the ball.
While their defensive line got mention from me on Wednesday (ESPN Insider) and their move from Darrelle Revis to Alterraun Verner got Sam’s attention yesterday, the Buccaneer offense has seen a major overhaul as well.
In this week’s Envisioning Change, we see what some of those added pieces look like when lined up together.
Starting with the offensive line, the 3000+ snaps contributed by Davin Joseph (-34.4), Donald Penn (+8.1) and Jeremy Zuttah (-1.9) last season will be replaced. Zuttah was traded to Baltimore, while Penn and Joseph were released after the team failed to find trade interest in either.
Left tackle Anthony Collins, formerly of the Bengals, and center Evan Dietrich-Smith were signed to fill two of those spots and hopes are high that the Bucs will finally see Carl Nicks healthy and lining up at left guard for a full season.
The Penn-to-Collins change plugs in a younger player who has survived in the league as a spot starter thus far, but has produced positive grades all along the way. As Penn’s pass blocking has fallen off in recent seasons, Collins enters with that being an area of strength — the +8.7 pass-blocking grade he posted from Week 13 on and a league-leading 97.2 Pass Blocking Efficiency score for the 2013 season topped off his résumé.
Dietrich-Smith turned a season-and-a-half of starting work for the Packers into a four-year deal with the Bucs. His +12.1 overall grade last year was far clear of Zuttah’s career best, including his days as a guard. As for Nicks, he was a Top-5 guard in our rankings in each of the three seasons just before his jump to Tampa Bay (No. 1 overall in 2010 and all three years were PFF Page of Fame-worthy), but has missed more games than he’s started in the past two years. Having him back at full strength and looking anything like his old self would solidify a spot that saw five different starters in 2013.
Though a question remains at the other guard spot vacated by Joseph, right tackle is in the capable hands of Demar Dotson and the re-made O-line has enough pieces in place to become a strength of the team. Looking at the potential center-left upgrade, here are the 2013 grades with optimistic numbers for Nicks’ (2011 shown, his last healthy season) and Jamon Meredith in as the 2013 left guard (nine starts at LG for Tampa Bay in 2013):
Stepping in behind that line will be another free agent addition in quarterback Josh McCown. The 34-year-old enjoyed an improbable stretch with the Bears that saw him collect his first significant playing time since 2007 and earn an impressive +14.3 passing grade in the process. Life’s going to be different in Tampa Bay, though, as he’ll no longer have the forgiving Marshall-Jeffery-Bennett trio to chuck balls to.
Instead, McCown will look out to the edges to see Vincent Jackson, new tight end Brandon Myers, and a couple of question marks at the other receiver spots. By trading away wide receiver Mike Williams when free agency was already a month old, the Buccaneers cemented thoughts that they’d be pursuing talent at the position in the draft.
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